General FE colleges have admitted to apprenticeship failings, after government research showed they are significantly less popular with employers than private training providers.
Training providers scored 83.9 per cent in the Skills Funding Agency’s latest employer satisfaction survey published last month, while colleges’ rating was nearly ten per cent lower at 74.9 per cent.
The survey gives an insight into the experience employers have had with their college or training provider in terms of the quality of training and responsiveness received.
The percentages reflected the median score for 214 colleges and 301 private training providers with sufficient employer satisfaction feedback to be counted in the ‘FE Choices’ data.
Three of the five lowest scoring colleges told FE Week their low satisfaction rate was due to issues with their apprenticeship schemes.
A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets College, which had the lowest college score of 34.8 per cent in the survey, told FE Week: “Our position on the SFA list reflects outstanding legacy issues on our apprenticeship schemes, which we have since worked through and introduced more robust systems to improve the outcomes for both apprentices and employers.
“This listing does not give an accurate reflection to our relationships with employers today.”
New College Nottingham scored the second lowest at 35.6 per cent.
A spokesperson for the college said: “This survey has not taken into account the views of more than 85 per cent of our employer partners, therefore we don’t believe it is able to give a true and accurate reflection of the level of satisfaction employers have in the college. We are confident in our ability to exceed employer expectations and regularly receive positive feedback from our partners.”
Guildford College had the third lowest score at 37.3 per cent and expressed “disappointment” with the results, but reassured its employers it was working to resolve the problems.
A spokesperson for the college said: “We are aware of the issues which have prompted some dissatisfaction with a small sample of our employers recently, and as part of the improvements made over the past few months to our apprenticeship programmes, have already taken steps to resolve these.”
Harrow College scored the fifth lowest at 37.5 per cent and a spokesperson told FE Week the college had “recognised some time ago” that its apprenticeships were an “area we would like to develop and improve and part of this has been the complete restructuring of the employer facing team”.
He added: “The college is highly confident the views of our employer partners will be wholly positive going forward as we develop and build upon the strength of our relationships.”
Highbury College Portsmouth scored the fourth lowest at 37.4 per cent but was unable to comment ahead of publication.
The survey represented the views of more than 60,000 employers between March and July 2016, and was based on training in 2015/16.
As well as being counted in the ‘FE Choices’ data, the survey results will also be used for the first time in a new online tool to help employers choose apprenticeship providers.
South Gloucestershire and Stroud College was the highest scoring college with a 99.5 per cent satisfaction score.
SGS College principal Sara-Jane Watkins said she was “thrilled” with the results and told FE Week their secret to success.
“There are many key elements that have added to the success of these results but I believe it is down to our responsiveness, the bespoke nature of delivery, close account management, offering a vacancy matching service for apprenticeships and the provision on offer,” Ms Watkins said.
“We are also highly effective at responding to wider economic needs and over the past four years SGS has worked closely with, and is an active partner in, two local enterprise partnerships.
“The college now delivers training to over 1,000 employers and has a targeted approach to develop and increase employer engagement and ensuring all learners experience work through work experience whilst with us.”